Advanced Proficiency for Foreign Language Teacher Candidates: What Can We Do to Help Them Achieve This Goal?

By Pearson, Lynn; Fonseca-Greber, Bonnibeth et al. | Foreign Language Annals, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Advanced Proficiency for Foreign Language Teacher Candidates: What Can We Do to Help Them Achieve This Goal?


Pearson, Lynn, Fonseca-Greber, Bonnibeth, Foell, Kristie, Foreign Language Annals


Abstract:

This article examines various issues related to the development of advanced proficiency by foreign language teacher candidates with the goal of providing information and strategies for teacher educators and administrators at the university level. Recent changes in the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) requirements stipulate that foreign language teacher candidates in specific languages (e.g., French, German, Spanish) must achieve the Advanced-Low rating on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency interview (OPI)/Writing Proficiency Test (WPT). The article includes descriptions of language proficiency required for foreign language teaching and assessments; a survey of curricula and institutional resources for foreign language education at the university level, which support the development of advanced proficiency; and recommendations for facilitating Advanced language proficiency by foreign language teacher candidates.

Key words: Advanced proficiency; assessment; foreign language teacher preparation; national standards, OPI/WPT

Language: Relevant to all languages

Introduction

Recent collaboration between the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in the form of the Program Standards for the Preparation of Foreign Language Teachers (2002) has implemented the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) as a required assessment of foreign language teacher candidates' language proficiency. What this means is that for a successful program review, NCATE institutions must therefore demonstrate, via Key Assessment 6 in their program report, that at least 80% of their program completers in foreign language education have achieved an Advanced-Low rating on the ACTFL OPI for candidates planning on teaching. Like other tests of language proficiency for future foreign language teachers, the new OPI requirement poses challenges for both foreign language teacher candidates and the educational institutions that prepare them.1

The purpose of this article is to examine various issues related to the development of advanced language proficiency by foreign language teacher candidates in order to provide information and strategies for university educators and administrators responsible for teacher education. First, we discuss definitions of language proficiency for foreign language teacher candidates based on previous research and the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. second, we consider current curricula and institutional resources for foreign language teacher education at the university level which support the development of advanced linguistic proficiency. We conclude with recommendations of how to facilitate development of Advanced proficiency by foreign language teacher candidates.

Required Language Proficiency for Foreign Language Teacher Candidates

Previous Research

Studies in the fields of applied linguistics and education (Bayliss & Vignola, 2000; Elder, 2001; Koike & Liskin-Gasparro, 1999; Riegelhaupt, 1994) have investigated the language proficiency and its assessment for second language (L2) learners who plan teaching careers. Elder (2001) proposed a useful definition for teachers' language proficiency, which includes "normal" language use in formal and informal contexts along with various specialist skills. Foreign language teacher candidates, therefore, have to achieve a certain level of global language proficiency and develop a domain-specific lexicon, such as language for the specific purpose of teaching, including managing the classroom and other pedagogical tasks. The following sections describe two areas of language proficiency required for foreign language teacher candidates; namely language for the specific purpose of teaching and global language proficiency. In addition, we detail assessments for evaluating the proficiency levels of foreign language teacher candidates in each area. …

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